Sky’s the limit!

Sky’s the limit!

PLANNING

Wintertime is ideal for photographing the sky at night because it gets dark earlier, and you need to dress warm if you are standing around waiting for long exposures. Keep your health and safety in mind, high visibility clothing would make sense near traffic. It’s always best to choose your location before it gets dark. City locations are popular, and dramatic landscapes work well too; you usually need something interesting in the foreground.

Bob Riach, Wrawby Post Mill.

Bob Riach, Wrawby Post Mill.

Reflective surfaces will make the most of any available light, which will add drama and interest.

Jethro Stamps, Planet Caravan.

Jethro Stamps, Planet Caravan.

EQUIPMENT

In very low light you need a tripod to prevent camera shake. It is essential for keeping your camera as still as possible. With a tripod you can shoot using the camera’s auto timer, it will allow your camera time to settle before the shutter activates. You can also use a remote release. For photographing the moon, you need a long telephoto lens, but for star trails a wide-angle lens is ideal.

Philip Field, The Chair Lifts of Savoleyres.

Philip Field, The Chair Lifts of Savoleyres.

CAMERA SETTINGS

Shooting in RAW format makes sense if you plan to adjust your exposure afterwards in Camera Raw, or another editing program. You’ll also be able to crop your image with less chance of affecting your image quality. The best low light photographs are taken in manual shooting mode, by using the exposure scale on your camera’s LCD display to balance the exposure. Go for a mid-range lens aperture like F8, it will give you the sharpest images. Your colours will be fairly accurate using your camera’s auto white balance setting, but try the tungsten setting for an attractive blue tone.

Pawel Zygmunt, Star Trails.

Pawel Zygmunt, Star Trails.

COMPOSITION

You might want the sky to be an interesting background with the main focus of attention in the foreground. With a relatively fast exposure the stars look normal, they will be individual points of light. This may mean you’ll need to increase your ISO setting, and open up your aperture a little. Check your results after each photo and change your exposure if it’s either too bright or too dark.

Yevhen Samuchenko, Blue Night.

Yevhen Samuchenko, Blue Night.

Very slow exposures record the movement of Earth against the background of the stars, the stars appear as curved lines. On a dark night, a small aperture and a low ISO will be enough to produce star trails. For longer lines of light use a neutral density filter on your lens.

Vadim Shuvarskiy, Night Time.

EDITING

To make the most of your photograph you need to spend a little time editing it afterwards, with your photo editing software. Adobe Camera Raw is an ideal application because it is non-destructive; you can experiment with all the different settings and no changes are made to the image itself until you are satisfied, and you then save your work.

Start with cropping your image to the desired size and shape. You might want to change the colour temperature or white balance, or adjust the exposure. Experiment by changing the whites and blacks, get it right and you’ll preserve your data and your image will retain its quality. You can also change and intensify the colours, and make your image more vivid. Don’t forget to sharpen your image before you save it.

Yevhen Samuchenko, Moonlight Castle.

Yevhen Samuchenko, Moonlight Castle.